The men, who are part of the Manchester United Foundation’s Imagine Your Goals programme, were chosen to play in the Challenge Attitudes Cup in Southampton. The project they attend aims to build the confidence and social skills of men from a variety of backgrounds.
Service user Giles Rothwell, 43, from South Manchester, has a diagnosis of schizophrenia and has been attending the group for 18 months. He was referred by Trust staff after attending a similar project in Crumpsall.
“The physical exercise really benefits me”, said Giles. “It can be stressful physically and mentally at times but that improves my coping mechanisms."
Steve Hoy, who runs the project, works for both the Trust and the Manchester United Foundation. The men train at The Cliff Training Ground, at which United legends David Beckham, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes have trained.
“We get referrals straight from the wards, from local groups like the Manchester Community Health Trainers, GPs, homeless hostels and probation services,” said Steve. “The fitness of the lads that come down here improves; some of them stop smoking and their mental and physical health improves aswell. They also regain confidence and self-esteem by being part of a group that look out for and help each other.”
The project also gives service users the chance to share their experiences, and in-between games the men will discuss medication and coping with mental illness. In addition, the Manchester United Foundation runs weekly coaching courses for mental health inpatients in Central Manchester. These service users then are given the opportunity to join the group at the Cliff when they leave hospital.
The tournament came about after Southampton and Bolton Wanderers Football clubs sent teams to a similar tournament hosted by the Manchester United Foundation before Christmas 2011. Being involved and spending a night away was a big step for some of the service users involved:
"Some of the lads had never been away before. It gets them out of their comfort zone but it wil help to build their confidence and independence to do similar things in the future,” said Steve.